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Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PlayStation 3) artwork

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PlayStation 3) review


"The Forgotten Sands was clearly designed for mainstream consumption. But somewhere along the development process, the line between simplicity and stupidity began to blur. The developers lost sight of what made the last Prince of Persia an unforgettable classic and attempted to create a game they thought the public might enjoy, instead of the one we actually wanted."



Everyone has an old relative who can’t seem to grasp technology. After playing Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, gamers (those young, high-tech souls who know the difference between a mouse and a “clicker”) may finally be able to relate.

It’s not that the game is deep or complex – The Forgotten Sands was clearly designed for mainstream consumption. But somewhere along the development process, the line between simplicity and stupidity began to blur. The developers lost sight of what made the last Prince of Persia an unforgettable classic and attempted to create a game they thought the public might enjoy, instead of the one we actually wanted.

The resulting product can turn anyone into a cranky, technology-hating grandpa. Just as he struggles to press the right button on the TV remote, players will constantly press the wrong button(s) while trying to swing, leap, climb, and slide through the environments of The Forgotten Sands.

In this game, the R2 button is used as often as MSG appears in processed food. There is no escaping it; to grab or climb up ledges and to run up or alongside walls, players must press that button.

During the common flow of the game, players will run along a wall (press R2), grab a ledge (press R2), and then run up from that ledge (press R2). If no upper ledge exists, the Prince will have to jump away from the wall (press X) and hope there’s something to grab on the other side. If it’s a pillar made of stone, the madness ends. But if there’s another wall and another ledge, players will have to press the R2 button very quickly. On the bright side, this action can be performed with little effort just by holding the magic grab-anything button.

However, moments like this train the player to hold the R2 button, which becomes a problem when there aren’t any ledges to grab. In that case, this scenario would require the player to release the button (assuming he is holding it) and quickly press it again immediately after touching the next wall.

On paper, the R2 insanity must have sounded like a great idea. But it won’t be long before players are fumbling, falling – and of course, dying – because they forgot to hold a button or failed to press it fast enough.

As if that weren’t enough, the developers took the liberty to include a selective time-freezing mechanism (activated by holding the L2 button) that must be used to harden water or to prevent an object from moving. Water spouts are everywhere, so it doesn’t take long before the L2 button becomes the new R2 button. When combined, they’re nothing short of a nightmare.

This might not have been such a huge problem if The Forgotten Sands had variety. But its gameplay comes in two flavors: climbing and fighting. The former is overrun with repetitive gimmicks (such as spinning blades, swinging axes, and booby-trap arrows), most of which struggle to pay homage to the game’s revered successors. Every single level feels the same, and almost every puzzle is the same: push a lever and a large object will spin into place.

The battles are all but atrocious. While previous iterations have tried to bring a degree of skill to the combat system, The Forgotten Sands thrives on button-mashing. Simply pound the Square button until all of the skeletal enemies are defeated, or press the Triangle button to kick an enemy who’s blocking.

While you’re hacking and slashing through the throngs of boredom – ahem, I mean throngs of enemies – the camera randomly zooms forward to present a brief animation. These eye candy moments (which, frankly, aren’t that tasty) typically consist of a sword to the chest. The Prince may also push his enemies off a cliff. However, when he is able to defeat a skeleton with a punch and a kick, players won’t be able to hold back the laughter. None of the shield-toting enemies have trouble blocking a sword attack, but for cinematic purposes, the fist is the mightiest weapon.

Finishing moves aren’t the only non-interactive part of the game; before every new environment is explored, and before every boss battle is fought, The Forgotten Sands bombards the player with real-time cut scenes. Several of them are used to show off the next location, but many were produced to advance the story. In either case players will be eager to skip ahead to the gameplay. While the last Prince of Persia is remembered for its impressive storytelling features (great characters, excellent dialogue, and top-notch voice acting), The Forgotten Sands’s movie sequences are completely devoid of entertainment. They look and sound like they were produced for a game that was thrown together to coincide with the release of a major motion picture. Hey, wait a minute…

Visually, The Forgotten Sands is somewhat unusual. The Prince is highlighted with a very light shadow that creates a weird separation between him and the environment. It almost looks like the start of a cel-shading effect that was changed mid-way through the game’s development.

Other than that, players might be expecting The Forgotten Sands to be a beautiful game. Why wouldn’t it be? Assassin’s Creed II is gorgeous. The Prince of Persia reboot (released in 2008) looks even better. But like the gameplay mechanics, the graphics fail to measure up. The backgrounds, characters, and destruction effects are just barely above the quality of a PlayStation 3 tech demo.

When the camera issues, the boring gameplay, the mechanical flaws, and the repetitive battles are taken into consideration, The Forgotten Sands doesn’t leave the player with many options. This is a sequel that will dare gamers to find something better to do – which, after a few hours of button-mash battles and nonsensical climbing, won’t seem like much of a challenge.

Rating: 5/10

louis_bedigian's avatar
Freelance review by Louis Bedigian (June 19, 2010)

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Suskie posted June 20, 2010:

If you don't mind me being frank, I didn't like this review at all. (Of course, I never see you on the forums so it's doubtful you'll ever even read this.)

What I think I dislike about it so much is that you adopt a tone that implies that you're a series expert and that you know what fans are looking for, when in fact it's pretty clear that the 2008 reboot is the only one you've played. Your description of the control scheme was what got me, since you're essentially attacking elements that have been series conventions since 2003... except for the reboot. You explain what the game does without explaining what's wrong with it.

Like, why is the overuse of the R2 trigger a bad thing? Again, last generation's PoP trilogy was the same way, and most people would agree that it works spectacularly. I want to know why you don't think it works. Based on your description of the game's platforming elements, it sounds to me like you altogether just don't like this flavor of complex, acrobatic platforming, which is fine, but then why are you playing it? You also strategically fail to mention the time-reversal button, which is what makes this brand of instant-death platforming tolerable in the first place.

Lines such as this one are what annoys me about this review:

Just as he struggles to press the right button on the TV remote, players will constantly press the wrong button(s) while trying to swing, leap, climb, and slide through the environments of The Forgotten Sands.

See, it's that inclusive tone, as if you're expecting people to agree with you by default. Thing is, Forgotten employs a classic control scheme that PoP fans will be instantly familiar with. I was reading this and thinking, I don't know, man up and learn to play? You also talk about the 2008 as if it's universally regarded as a masterpiece, when in fact its poor reception by fans is one of the reasons Ubisoft when back to formula with Forgotten.

My point is: Who does this review address? Who are you speaking to? Describing your own experience and displeasure is fine, of course, but I get the feeling that anyone who's interested in Forgotten will shrug off this review.
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Masters posted June 23, 2010:

Yikes
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Suskie posted June 23, 2010:

There appears to be an HTML issue.
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Masters posted June 23, 2010:

That's not even what the yikes was about!
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Suskie posted June 23, 2010:

Was I too harsh? I really didn't like this review at all.

Edit: Everything I do seems to scare you, Masters. WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM, MAN?!
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Masters posted June 23, 2010:

Stop yelling! You're scaring me! ;_;

I've actually never seen Louis on the forums either. He's written quite a few reviews though.

I'll have to read this one now that you've piqued my interest!
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Suskie posted June 23, 2010:

I guess the review will make sense if you're not familiar with the series or if the only one you've played is the 2008 reboot (and you agree with Louis about it), but I just don't see how anyone who's been with this series since Sands of Time will be able to relate to this review.

I've read other reviews of Louis's and liked them, so this is really just a fluke as far as I'm concerned.
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Genj posted June 23, 2010:

Well I've played all of the last gen trilogy and POP08, and I can see what Suskie is saying. This one puts the last game on a pedestal, but I'm pretty sure the general reception was "looks beautiful, too simple/easy." This never seems to make the connection that it's more like the trilogy and comes off disliking it for not continuing 08's style. When I read it I wonder if the game really is so repetitive and horrible or if he just doesn't like the trilogy most POP fans seemed to prefer.

Also: the former is overrun with repetitive gimmicks (such as spinning blades, swinging axes, and booby-trap arrows), most of which struggle to pay homage to the game’s revered successors.

I'd imagine it is quite difficult to pay homage to sequels that haven't been made yet.
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honestgamer posted June 23, 2010:

Louis posted in the E3 topic, but other than that he hasn't been terribly active on the forums. He's a great guy, though. Maybe the activity will change someday, maybe not. I think that a strength of this review is that long-time fans of the series have enough info here to know whether or not they agree with Louis, and whether or not they are likely to get something out of the game even if his stance doesn't suit them.

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